Tuesday, June 30, 2009

[Yasmin_discussions] Ethnic Cyborg?

Dear Yasminers,

I will be the moderator of july discussion, "Ethnic Cyborg", which
Dicle Kocacıoğlu and Lanfranco Aceti are invited responders.
Although we have a framework below, all Yasminers are invited to
explore the topic in the conjunction of art science and technology in
every possible direction.

Below you will find the official text on "(un)Cyborgable?", the theme
of amber'09 art and technology festival. This year amberFestival and
amberConference are revisiting the concept of Cyborg to explore what
digital technologies have changed in our lives after thirty years of
domination of our social realm Although digital technologies are not
unique in triggering such change we can easily give the leading role
to the digital -and information technologies- which altered our
perception with a speed and scope never reached before.

The body is a powerful tool to explore what is continuously and
permanently but also visibly or invisibly being changed over the last
decades through the mediation of new technologies. Body is also a
topic which limitations come along with when one starts talking about
it: sometimes a taboo, sometimes better not to mention, most of the
times the hidden object of anger, jealousy, honor, etc. But our bodies
are being changed anyway... What is then happening to the related
concepts, not only singular body but also the social constructs based
on bodily specifications?

Therefore to bring in the social aspect into our conceptual framework
we identified this month's topic of the Yasmin discussion as "ethnic
cyborg". Ethnicity is a very important blend of life in the Middle
East and Mediterranean basin. In a social historical geography where
all ethnic, religious and national identifications can be rephrased as
ethnic divides depending upon the political sphere and space. We are
bringing the Cyborg into the scene and would like to ask all history-
old questions once again. But beware; most of us are already Cyborgs,
aren't we?

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Living in a technologically-mediated environment causes changes and
shifts in human habits, postures and behaviors. Technologies have an
impact on our perceptions; each new technology demands new practices
of body and speech as well as a new comprehension of time and space.

The notion of the cyborg (cybernetic organism) explores the literal
and figurative integrations of the human body and technology. A hybrid
concept, cyborg links the organic and non-organic and raises questions
concerning human corporeality and subjectivity. In the same vein, the
field of Art and Technology also elaborates on the transforming and
emerging human and addresses the questions of who or what we may
become as a result of our increasing engagements with technology.

Based on the recent technological developments and their incorporation
in the social, cultural, and political domains, amber'09 explores the
consequences of exposing and augmenting our bodies with digital
technologies. It aims to elaborate on the body and its relationships
in the social and cultural domains, the asymmetrical structures and
practices inherent to contemporary societies and the possibilities to
break these asymmetries in order to achieve a free and equal society.

Re-visiting and re-thinking the notion of the cyborg, amber'09 asks:
Are you (un)Cyborgable?

The possibilities, restrictions and dangers generated by digital
technologies and their implications in the social, cultural, and
political domains have been subject of discussion for decades.
Currently Open source and the Internet are some of the many
technologies that enhance democratic practices and the promises of
democracy. Simultaneously the digital divide, surveillance and
technologically based wars provide argument for a dystopic and
totalitarian society.

These two contrasting visions of society enabled by digital technology
can be analyzed through a concept of the body interpreted as the locus
of contemporary politics and aesthetics. What are the consequences of
exposing and augmenting our bodies with digital technologies? Does the
perception of the body change as a consequence of its increasing
encounter with and assimilation of digital technologies? In what ways
does the change in the understanding of the body, the new cyborg body
(cybernetic organism) reconfigures the relation to social and cultural
domains? And in what ways are the asymmetrical structures and
practices inherent to contemporary societies reconfigured by the
digitally enhanced body? Or can these encounters between digital
technologies and the body implies the possibility of a more 'free'
and equal society?

What kind of selves will these encounters generate? Which ethical
ideas will these new cyborg selves turn to? In which ways will affects
of the cyborgs come together with their moral percepts? If one meaning
of technology is mediation as in 'techne' , how will these cyborgs
experience the world as that world gets to increasingly prevent
unmediated relations between self and other? Or can technology in the
hands of cyborgs go beyond itself and lead to new less controlled and
mediated relations?

In popular culture these ethical questions the cyborg poses us have
been explored. Blade Runner illustrates the willpower of androids;
Johhny Mnemonic explores the personification of memory, while The
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy focuses on the feelings and desires
of robots. While these art works presume a smoothly produced and
received technology, in Turkey one prominent popular line of humor has
been on the twists and turns of the arrival of technology as part of
global, national and local uneven development. Indeed in locales such
as Middle East, the Balkans, The Mediterranean, Caucasian and Turkic
countries technology's potential in generating and enhancing social
and economic disparities is vividly visible. Moreover ongoing crises
in the region continue to attract attention to the manifold effects of
the asymmetrically produced technological violence. As we continue to
live in these lands that generate cyborgs in these violently uneven
ways and search for a new ethics that can respond to these through new
bodies we ask: Are you (un)cyborgable?


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ekmel ertan
skype id: ekmelertan

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